Nightwish sack female vocalist after lengthy world tour
Dramatic dismissal blamed on Tarja Turunen's greed and diva-like behaviour
Finnish power metal act Nightwish has sacked its female vocalist Tarja Turunen. The singer's dismissal came hard on the heels of the final homecoming concert of the successful band's recent Once tour, which played to a packed house of 11,000 at the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki on Friday.
The group, which emerged in the mid-1990s from the small eastern town of Kitee (see attached article) has become one of the biggest export items on the Finnish popular music scene. Friday's concert brought to a close a tour lasting around eighteen months and involving 150 gigs on several continents.
By all accounts, the decision to cut Turunen loose had been brewing for some time, but when it came the dismissal was brutal and very public. A blunt open letter on the band's website, which was also given to Turunen after the Hartwall Arena show, included the following:
It is time to choose whether the story of Nightwish ends here or whether it will still continue an undetermined period of time. We have been working with this creation for 9 years and we are not ready to give up yet. Nightwish is a way of life, something to live for, and we are certain we can't let it go.
Equally certain is the fact that we cannot go on with you and Marcelo [Turunen's husband, see below] any longer. During the last year something sad happened, which I have been going over in my head every single day, morning and night. Your attitude and behavior do not go with Nightwish anymore. There are characteristics I would never have believed to see in my old dear friend. People who don't talk with each other for a year do not belong in the same band...
...To you, unfortunately, business, money, and things that have nothing to do with those emotions have become much more important. You feel that you have sacrificed yourself and your musical career for Nightwish, rather than thinking what it has given to you. This attitude was clearly shown to me in the two things you said to me in an airplane in Toronto: 'I don't need Nightwish anymore', and 'Remember, Tuomas, that I could leave this band at any time, giving you only one day's warning in advance'.
I can't simply write any more songs for you to sing.
You have said yourself that you are merely a 'guest musician' in Nightwish. Now that visit ends and we will continue Nightwish with a new female vocalist. We are sure this is an equally big relief to you as it is for us. We have all been feeling bad long enough..."
The letter was signed by the band's keyboards player Tuomas Holopainen, who has also been responsible for the lion's share of the compositions and lyrics in the band's songs, but he states that the decision was taken by the four male members of Nightwish unanimously.
References in the letter to diva-like behaviour and to greed, opportunism, and broken promises suggest that this is more than merely a case of the traditional "musical differences".
There have also been suggestions that Turunen's husband and manager - Argentine Marcelo Cabuli - has played a role in the proceedings. Tuomas Holopainen compared the situation with that afflicting The Beatles in the late 1960s, as the figure of Yoko Ono allegedly began to drive a wedge between her husband John Lennon and the other members of the band.
Tarja Turunen herself issued a statement to the evening YLE news stating her shock at what had happened. She felt the way of bringing the subject out into the open was cruel and sad.
As the letter noted, the group intends to go on with a new female singer. Whether the search for a replacement for the soaring vocals of Turunen has already begun or whether a new vocalist might even have already been found was not revealed.
"I would rather not comment on that. The sentence is there that Nightwish has always had a female vocalist. We shall not be going on as a four-piece band", Holopainen commented to Helsingin Sanomat on Sunday.
Tuula Salminen of Spinefarm, Nightwish's recording label, stated that the company "had smelt something like this coming for some time".
She said that the record company trusted that the decision was a carefully considered one: "Everyone understands that the band would not have chosen such a radical course of action unless they had been forced to."
Nightwish came into being in 1996, and the band have sold around 2 million copies of their records worldwide. Their album Once was the biggest-selling album in Finland in 2004.
Tarja Turunen has of late been concentrating on a solo career. She will be appearing in recitals of Christmas songs and carols in December and next year will be recording a CD of similar songs. In addition she is engaged to sing at the Savonlinna Opera Festival next summer.
Turunen studied classical singing at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki and subsequently at the Karlsruhe Academy of Music. Holopainen stated that Turunen's solo projects were not an issue from the group's perspective.
It remains to be seen how the events of the weekend will play out for the future success of the classically-influenced goth band, whose popularity has been growing, particularly in Central Europe.
Nightwish's album Once reached #1 in the Greek, German, Norwegian and Hungarian charts, in addition to here in Finland, and the CD sold platinum in Germany. As Tuomas Holopainen freely admits, Turunen was the image of Nightwish, front and centre, but Holopainen can take the credit for much of the songwriting.
The pairing of an operatically-trained and attractive and charismatic "front woman" and some melodic songs in the "symphonic power metal" or "opera metal" genre was clearly a symbiotic and fruitful one, at least until last Friday, when the wheels fell off with a vengeance.
In a final ironic twist, the sold-out Hartwall Arena concert on Friday was recorded for live CD/DVD release - under the title "End of an Era".
Previously in HS International Edition:
FACTFILE: Nightwish (1996-) (9.8.2005)
From Kitee to the ends of the earth and back: Nightwish on tour (9.8.2005)
Nightwish the big winner at this year's Emma Gala (28.2.2005)
Nightwish website (in a "light" version owing to massive traffic over the last 24 hours)
Nightwish - Wikipedia